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The Monday Media Diet with Christine Amorose Merrill
On France, Alison Roman, and Atul Gawande
Christine Amorose Merrill (CAM) is works in tech at Spotify by day, and is a thoughtful travel writer and voracious consumer of books by night. Check her winter guide to Finland here. We’re pleased to have her with us this week. -Colin (CJN)
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Christine, and I live in San Diego with my husband, newborn daughter and two pugs. I sell podcast ads at Spotify, although I’m currently trying to make the most of parental leave. When I’m not working, I love to travel, read, garden and go to the beach.
I started a travel and lifestyle blog called C’est Christine when I moved to the French Riviera on a whim in 2010, and kept it up through living in France, Australia and New York City and traveling (often solo) to 40+ countries. Although I’m on a bit of an extended blogging sabbatical, I still love to share travel, lifestyle and content recs on Instagram and occasionally contribute to travel publications.
Describe your media diet.
Unsurprisingly, I listen to a lot of podcasts—at 1.8x speed, so easier to squeeze more in. For news, I listen to The Daily in the morning and The Journal in the evening—although I have gotten a little pickier since 2016 and 2020 about the episodes I choose. If it’s a piece of news content that I’m familiar with and I know it’s just going to bum me out (see: pretty much all of 2017), I’ll skip it. I also really enjoy Plain English with Derek Thompson, The Ezra Klein Show and First Person for nuanced discussions on current events.
For pop culture, I listen to Ringer Dish, Keep It, Armchair Expert, The Big Picture, Ringer Reality TV Show and You’re Wrong About. I also listen to the classics like This American Life and How I Built This, and quite like Criminal and Crime Show for a slightly elevated take on the true crime genre. This is really just a snippet of the podcasts I subscribe to, but alas! Let it be known I listen to a lot of podcasts.
I’m not much of a newsletter person, but I do get the Alison Roman newsletter—whatever recipe she shares usually ends up being what I cook that weekend.
I subscribe to the Sunday print edition of the New York Times, and also get the print versions of New York Magazine and San Diego Magazine—New York Mag keeps me up to date on culture and gives me things to look forward to on my next visit, and San Diego Mag keeps me excited about all of the happenings in my adopted home city.
What’s the last great book you read?
I loved Still Life. It made me want to drink a spritz in a sunny Italian courtyard in the 1950’s, and I thoroughly enjoyed the prose and the characters. It’s been my #1 recommendation for friends who want a vacation book this summer (closely followed by Great Circle!).
What are you reading now?
I’m usually always flipping between a fiction book, a nonfiction book and a “short” book (either poems or short stories) at the same time. Right now, I’m reading Apeirogon on the advice of my very well-read in-laws. I’m also reading a story every night from Just So Stories: I remember reading them as a kid, and was delighted to find a used copy at the Last Bookstore in Los Angeles last time I was there.
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?
For magazines, I’m a classic front-to-back reader. I start at the beginning and make my way through the whole thing in order, although if an article doesn’t capture my attention within the first few paragraphs, I’ll usually skip it and move onto the next.
For the Sunday New York Times, I always flip to Metropolitan Diary first. When I was a journalism major, I got the New York Times every weekday and read it front to back and always especially loved Metropolitan Diary—I think it was part of what spurred me to move to New York City several years later. I’ll skip around the news and politics (again, not trying to just continually bum myself out with the current state of the world), but never miss the business, real estate, styles and opinion sections. I also always skip immediately to the back of the magazine to tear out the crossword to give to my elderly neighbor.
Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?
I’m a big fan of Atul Gawande: he’s a surgeon and health leader who is also very eloquent and direct. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End is a book that I think everyone should read: his perspective on death and what makes life worth living is incredibly important, especially if you have aging parents. I volunteer at a hospital and a hospice, and generally don’t think we talk enough about death and quality of life in our abysmal healthcare system. Gawande’s book and articles give you a good starting point for potentially uncomfortable conversations.
What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?
I’ve recently become a big fan of Insight Timer. I’ve done Transcendental Meditation for several years and you don’t need an app for that, but I’ve gotten very committed to the Sleep tracks on Insight. There’s this Scottish man with a lovely voice who does a Deep Sleep meditation and a Power Nap meditation, and I fall asleep within minutes of listening to either. I used to travel a lot for work, and having a sleep routine was huge to ensure I was sleeping well no matter what random hotel I was in that night.
Plane or train?
In an ideal world, I would have the views and speed of a plane with the boarding experience of a train. I would love to never go through airport security or deal with the general chaos of boarding an airplane again.
What is one place everyone should visit? Broadly speaking, I hope that everyone has the opportunity to visit a national park or some place of great natural beauty and another country. And more specifically—I think New York City truly has something for everyone, and Slovenia is probably one of the most underrated places for natural beauty.
Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into.
My best friend says I’m “too efficient” for rabbit holes, but the reality is that my attention span on screens is too short. I can read a 1000-page book on a subject and steadily work my way through it, but I almost never go on YouTube or spend too much time on online articles or videos because I get distracted too easily.
I would say the closest thing to a rabbit hole for me is when I binge an entire podcast series in a day (which happens pretty often—it’s one of my favorite ways to spend a spare day cleaning and gardening). And the reality is that as a new parent, I’m definitely Googling a lot more than I used to—asking a lot of questions in a lot of different ways to try to figure out what’s normal or what’s next.
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Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)
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